I love spring! Of all the seasons it is my favorite. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was born in the spring or that green is my favorite color or any number of other reasons but it is the one season that resonates with me the strongest.
I love watching tender new shoots push up through the soil, how the buds on branches start to swell and burst open into bloom and listening to the exuberant song of the robin as he sings to attract a mate.
Of all the seasons, I look forward to spring the most. It holds the promise of rebirth and regrowth and a new beginning. So it is no big surprise that many of the spring blooming flowers are some of my favorites; tulips, narcissus, hellebore, violets, viburnum, quince, tulip magnolia, oh and hellebore. Did I mention that I love hellebore?! (Check out last month’s blog)
Over the years I have lived in several parts of the country. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, went to school in Iowa and Utah, spent 20 years living in New York City and now here in Portland and I have to say that the Pacific Northwest spring outshines them all! Spring in beautiful everywhere but with our moderate climate and abundant winter rainfall, once spring hits its stride our little corner of the world just explodes with flowers. The Rhodies, aka rhododendrons, are extraordinary. Some bushes here are as tall as houses with soccer ball sized flower heads!
One thing I noticed when I moved here is that spring seemed to come earlier here than inmost parts of the country, except for the south that is. On further investigation I have learned that According to weather expert Cliff Mass, it is because of our geography that our spring starts about a month earlier here.
Which is great news for us flower folk. This means we are blessed with tons of amazing locally grown flowers earlier! Right around now, the flower market starts to fill up with locally grown product. It starts as a trickle with farmers bringing in their smatterings of first offerings and then becomes a torrent of blooms and beauty.
In late January/early February we start getting tulips, hyacinth and narcissus that have been forced in the greenhouse followed by hellebore, another early bloomer and highly coveted at the flower market. Soon after we start seeing quince, tulip magnolia, viburnum, plum and apricot branches that have also been lightly forced into bloom. Witch Hazel and Pieris are both shrubs that naturally bloom early so there is no need to force them to show off.
Freesia, poppies and ranunculus love the cool weather and do great in hoop houses and cool greenhouses. I do have to say that our locally grown freesia and ranunculus are fantastic! So much better than the imported and California grown. They are bigger, stronger and last longer and it is so hard to say goodbye to them once the weather starts getting too warm.
The field grown flowers take a little longer to come on but once they do, there is no stopping them. Farmers bring in buckets and buckets of fantastic tulips, narcissus, lilac, frittilaria, hyacinth along with dogwood, cherry, and other blooming branches.
So many other florists I know here all feel so blessed to have such an amazing abundance of locally grown product available to us here in the Pacific Northwest.
Aside from the flower market and my floral business, there are many things to do here once the weather starts warming up.
With my limited free time, one of my favorite things to do come spring is to take a walk in one of Portland’s older historic neighborhoods with well-established trees and gardens. The abundance and lushness of these neighborhoods is something to behold. There is always something in bloom here year round but spring is the pinnacle.
One of the items on my bucket list is to visit Holland in the April but until that day, the closest thing to a trip to the Netherlands is the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon. Every spring 40 acres of tulips burst into bloom attracting thousands of guests from the last week of March all the way through the month of April. I don’t always make it down there every year but when I do it is quite wonderful.
Late April and May is when the Columbia River Gorge bursts into bloom. The Gorge’s unique geography is a link between the dry high desert and the damp west side, and beginning in mid to late April the bloom works its way from west to east, carpeting massive areas with balsamroot, lupine, lomatium and a range of other flowers. The best spots to view the wildflowers are Miler Island, Tom McCall Preserve near Mosier, Dog Mountain and Catherine Creek on the Washington side of the river.
Late spring wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. Come May and sometimes earlier, the first flush of roses explode onto the scene in hundreds of different shapes, sizes and colors.
Escape from Portland’s traffic and take a trip to the Oregon Coast to experience a totally different kind of traffic, a very large kind! Every year the entire global population of grey whales trucks its way up the Pacific coast from the birthing lagoons of Baja to feeding areas in the Bering Sea. Late March is usually the best time to see them. The best spot to catch a glimpse of these big boys and girls is Cape Lookout, Cape Meares or Yaquina Head in Oregon or Cape Disappointment in Washington.
Rhododendrons are as iconic to the Pacific Northwest as Douglas Firs and Sasquatch. While most of us only get to enjoy them in gardens and parks here is town, I am told that there is nothing like seeing them in the wild while hiking in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest enshrouded in fog. While I have yet to experience them in this manner it sounds absolutely magical! Add another thing to my bucket list!
Best places are Ramona Falls of the McNeil Point trail on Mt Hood as well as the Bogachiel or Soleduc Valley on the Olympic Peninsula.
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